Trucks & SUVs

Skip the 2021 Mazda CX-9 and Get a Subaru Ascent If You Need Space

Who knew that Mazda’s largest SUV isn’t all that big? Families who want to make the most out of every journey might be better off purchasing the 2021 Subaru Ascent instead of the 2021 Mazda CX-9.

But is the Ascent really a worthy challenger to the critically acclaimed CX-9? Let’s see how the pair of three-row SUVs stack up against one another.

How much more space does the 2021 Subaru Ascent offer?

A white 2021 Subaru Ascent parked in the drive way in front of a house
The 2021 Subaru Ascent on display in a driveway | Subaru

The Ascent’s cargo hold is giant compared to the 2021 Mazda CX-9. 

It offers 17.8 cubic feet of storage space behind the third row of seating. That’s 3.4 cubic feet more than the CX-9 offers, which is enough extra room to fit a large suitcase.

The 2021 Subaru Ascent holds this advantage when you lower the rear seats. It provides 47.5 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row and 86.5 cubic feet behind the first row. Meanwhile, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 has 9.3 cubic feet and 15.3 cubic feet less, respectively.

But those impressive numbers don’t entirely do the Ascent justice. It also has an under-floor storage compartment, and it’s the only vehicle in its class that comes with standard raised roof rails. So you can bring along everything you need in a multitude of ways.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 features advantages in other categories

An action shot of a silver 2021 Mazda CX-9's liftgate opening, revealing its small cargo area.
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 has limited cargo room for its class | Mazda

RELATED: The 2021 Mazda CX-9’s Biggest Flaw Could Be a Huge Safety Hazard

Mazda manufactures remarkable vehicles that deliver exciting driving dynamics that other automakers can’t replicate. This characteristic extends to its largest model – the CX-9.

Car and Driver’s review of the CX-9 states that “Its handling is far sharper than any of its rivals.’” Meanwhile, Consumer Reports only gave the 2021 Subaru Ascent a rating of 3/5 in routine handling.

However, the Ascent outperformed the CX-9 in Consumer Reports’ road test by a wide margin.

The CX-9’s agility more than makes up for its lack of power. Its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine only makes 227 hp. However, that number increases to 250 hp if you fill the SUV with premium 93-octane fuel.

While it lacks a genuinely potent engine, it does achieve impressive fuel economy. According to the EPA, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 gets 22 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway.

Meanwhile, the Ascent’s 260-hp 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine seems better on paper. But it won’t keep up with the CX-9 on a racecourse. Plus, its fuel economy is one MPG less in the city and the highway than the 2021 Mazda CX-9’s standard configuration.

Additionally, the CX-9 is one of the most reliable three-row midsize SUVs. Meanwhile, the 2021 Subaru Ascent ended up on the opposite list

Which three-row SUV is the better buy?

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The 2021 Subaru Ascent is an alternative to the 2021 Mazda CX-9, but it doesn’t beat it outright.

However, the 2021 Subaru Ascent is a perfect value play. Its $32,295 starting MSRP is $1,865 cheaper than the 2021 Mazda CX-9. 

Additionally, you may want to consider the Ascent if you desire a three-row SUV with rugged capability. In addition to its more spacious cargo area, it also tows up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. That’s 1,500 pounds more than the CX-9 can manage.

Plus, the Ascent comes standard with an all-wheel-drive system, giving you more traction on slippery surfaces. Meanwhile, you’ll have to pay an added $1,900 if you want to add AWD to your CX-9.

Regardless, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 still stands as the better choice if you don’t need the maximum allotted space or capability.